Add-ins & Apps, News, Windows Home Server

StableBit DrivePool Add-in Set to Bring Back Storage Pooling and Folder Duplication to Windows Home Server 2011

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StableBit DrivePool is a forthcoming add-in for Windows Home Server 2011, which aims to enable storage pooling and folder duplication to the platform – the same features Microsoft removed in the WHS Release Candidate following the withdrawal of Drive Extender.

The developer writes:

This add-in will let you add multiple hard drives into one combined storage pool on the Windows Home Server. You can create folder shares on this storage pool, and each folder on the pool can either be duplicated or not duplicated. Files placed in duplicated folders will be protected against single drive failure by being placed onto two separate hard drives.

Features:

  • Combine all your hard drives into one big storage pool (except the system drive with the OS).
  • Add and remove drives from the pool at any time without re-partitioning or manually moving folders.
  • Create duplicated folders on the storage drive pool that are protected against single drive failure. If a drive fails on which a duplicated file was stored, the contents of that file will remain readable even without the drive.

The add-in is currently in alpha, but a technical preview is expected in the next few weeks. To find out more about StableBit DrivePool, check out the announcement.

For those of you who are thinking of staying with Windows Home Server v1, would this convince you to upgrade? Certainly we need to see the add-in working to ensure your data is safe, and it would be useful to understand what’s happening under the hood. But if it stacks up to the claims, it certainly would help to make WHS 2011 a more appealing prospect. Let us know your thoughts below.

Update: Some additional information from the developer, courtesy of WGS Forums:

1. How safe is your data?
Data placed in a duplicated share is protected against any single drive failure. That means that if any one hard disk dies then it’s guaranteed that all the files in all your duplicated shares will remain readable.

2. Is this software Raid?
No. Files in duplicated shares simply exist on 2 drives. In terms of performance, yes, this is like software RAID in the sense that it’s not hardware accelerated.

3. Can you mix drive sizes/types?
Yes. Any non-removable disk formatted with NTFS. I.e. it won’t add your SD card to the pool.

4. How much system resources (cpu/memory) will this require?
This remains to be seen, it’s still early days.

5. System requirements?
Beyond WHS 2011, I don’t foresee any special requirements at this point.

6. Will this play nice with streaming videos?
The performance characteristics will become evident once the technical beta ships. I’ve been coding day and night since the RC got released, I didn’t get a chance to push it to the limit to see how it performs.

7. How much does this cost?
No price announced, but I can give you a ballpark figure of $20.

8. Will there be a beta before release?
Yes.

9. When will the product be available?
There will be a functional Technical Preview in the coming weeks. Beyond that, all I can tell you is that we’ll be going for a beta and a release as quickly as possible, while delivering a stable release.

More: StableBit DrivePool | StableBit.com

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Terry Walsh is the founder of We Got Served. He started the community in February 2007 with a mission to help families, tech enthusiasts everywhere figure out the technology needed to run the modern home and small business. He's the author of a number of guides to Windows, Windows Server and OS X Server and runs his own successful publishing business. Born and raised in Liverpool, England, Terry has been awarded Microsoft's prestigious Most Valuable Professional Award each year since 2008 for his work on We Got Served.
  • Nathan

    Data integrity is key, obviously, but this would be a very compelling add in. I intend to migrate to WHS2011 when it releases and I have already made plans/purchased new hard drives to do some mirroring and software raid. If this works and keeps me from having to keep track of all that, I'm all for it. Heck, I'd probably even give 20 bucks or so for it 🙂

  • Ben

    I would need to be 100% this was bullet proof before trying. Even Microsoft got it slightly wrong with their first attempt which led to data corruption until it was fixed in PP1. If it does turn out to be bullet proof then yes I would consider upgrading but how is it that one man in his garage can produce a solution that Microsoft refuse to do with their whole team of egg heads? Does raise some eyebrows.

    • FormerMarineSgt

      If it handles disk failure better than V1's implementation, I'll be a happy man. It needs to be very robust in identifying drives that are beginning to fail/go offline momentarily and thereby causing file conflicts.

      I had an external drive with what turned out to be a defective USB port on it and an internal drive that failed. Both were the slow, difficult to troubleshhot failures that V1 couldn't handle and I lost major portions of my data each time. Dang good thing that I backed it up to non-pooled drives regularly or I would have lost major portions of my movie library.

      I stopped relying on it to keep my data safe until I finally figured out the drive issues and got the hardware stable by replaced the internal drive and pulled the external drive out of it's case and used it as an internal drive – removing the SATA to USB converter. It was so bad that I turned off data duplication alltogether until I was able to identify the problem drive.

    • ImTheTypeOfGuy

      That of course is key. If MS can't do it, why should we think an individual can?

      Yes, if this is bullet proof, I will definitely upgrade.

  • Jim

    I cannot wait for this add-in, once the full release of WHS2 is released that is.

  • ravenshin

    I’m glad to see the market moving to fill this obvious need. Price point is a big concern for any of those 3rd party developers seeking to fill the DE chasm in WHS 2011. If the solution costs as much as the OS itself there’s gonna be a lot of consumer second thoughts. And you can bet MS isn’t going to cut Vail’s retail price to compensate for its shortcomings. It will be interesting to see how options develop and how this race turns out through the year.

  • C. Johansson

    I've been waiting for this!

  • Jim

    Drive Pooling + viable Anti-virusMalware solution(s) = upgrade certainty.

  • Nick

    If it was 100% stable and the performance was there, this definitely means an upgrade for me!

  • Jay

    *IF* it lives up to the promise then I'd sign up for WHS 2011 – the lack of DE was the only reason I wasn't already planning an upgrade.

  • Jim

    Wow. I'd have to be absolutely certain that data integrity issues did not exist. I'd be willing to pay for this flexibility…

  • This is what i expected from microsoft. After DE failed, nothing fancy. just a simple addon that shows “we still care about you”.

    Lets see how it evolves. Hopefully no nasty bugs like DE1.0 had

  • It certainly sounds interesting but my concern has always been if Microsoft couldnt get it right, and they developed the software, how much faith can someone put in an add-in developed by someone other than MS.

    I see everyone saying about Data Integrity – but it was months before the data corruption bug of V1 reared its very ugly head, so I personally would be careful jumping on something too quickly!

    But it is good to see people working on it!

  • CheezeWiz

    This company could single-handedly save WHS v2 from an early grave. It remains to be seen how well it works, but if it does then they could clean up on this one.

  • Tralus

    I too echo others sentiments – IF it works as promised and rock solid, then count me in.

  • Ben Griggs

    This article just put WHS back into consideration for me. As others have stated, I probably wouldn't jump on an alpha or beta release, but if it proves out I may be back in the WHS game….

  • roundshm

    Absolutely. I had made up my mind not to upgrade without DE. I have been singing the praises of WHS since the beta, but without DE Vail lost its appeal for me. Where do I sign up for beta testing for this add-in. Perhaps all is not lost. I agree with CheezeWiz, this could save WHS v2.

  • Nick

    I think I'll try the alpha, I need to get my test machine onto RC as well. Good weekend project for me

  • Rychek

    Like others have said, as long as it's stable and reliable, I will jump.

    In regard to the "if MS can't do it, how can anyone else?" statments, keep in mind that DE v2 didn't work well with LOB applications. DE v2 worked just fine for typical home data (music, movies, docs, pics, etc). It is no surprise to me that someone else has taken on the challenge of writing a DE like add-in for WHS 2011. I'm encouraged by this announcement and hope they do a fantastic job.

  • TrpBlasty

    I agree with most of the comments here. This could single handedly save WHSv2. I recommended WHSv1 to so many people because of the ease of use..even novice users. It was very annoying for me setting up WHSv2 without drive pooling for testing purposes. Just the pain of having to make sure I had room on each drive for what I was storing and the insanity of waiting for a TB of data to transfer over once a drive fills up to a larger one had already turned me off from upgrading. But this breathes new life into it. Hopefully it is an extremely bulletproof add-in.

  • Aaron

    I agree with most people on here as well. DE is the only reason for somebody like me to have a server. I needed something to give me massive storage space, without needing to get expensive RAID controllers, and use matching drives. Once all the bugs were kicked out of WHSv1, I've been a happy camper. When I learned DE was removed from WHSv2, I decided it just wasn't something I needed. Sure, I won't be able to use those new drives, but there are TONS of older drives that still work fine with v1, and there's no need to rush out and upgrade. If this works as advertised, I may have to give it a go. I agree with everybody else too, extensive testing in real-world scenarios is necessary before I jump in.

  • Bryan

    If it works and is stable, I'll eventually upgrade. Although I doubt I'll be an early adopter.

  • Mike

    All you guys who say how can one guy do what Microsoft can't do don't understand how companies work. I'm betting it is was probably one or two developers within Microsoft who did the first version. It's not a matter of throwing number of developers at the problem, it's motivation on Microsoft's part. They just don't want to support two different schemes and have decided there is more money in targeting small business users and the home user is just not a big enough market to warrant the extra amount of work (or more likely, the support involved, which through my experience as a software developer at a decently sized company is where most of the pain and expense comes from).

    • Ken

      I think this is EXACTLY what happened. Easier to support a product without the drive extender option in one product. More market in the business version without it, so in looking at the big picture i think they went with the DE'less product for all markets.

  • DavidB

    I think some people have missed the fact that WHS 2011 has file shadowing and drive mirroring which is similar to duplicate folders in WHS V1.

    There is no need for RAID in WHS 2011.

    If you can physically add a drive to a WHS v1, and step through to make it part of the storage pool, it is no ,more difficult to add a drive in WHS 2011 and set up the drives. A real plus is that WHS 2011 works in a familiar fashion to Windows desktops. So, if you can add a drive to a PC, you can add a drive to the WHS.

    Or am I missing something?

    • Cheezewiz

      Yes, you are missing something. DE allowed for folder-level duplication (not whole drive level, i.e. some data is more valuable than others) and the use of any drive regardless of size or connection, 2 things that the simple drive mirroring does not allow. With v1 when you needed space you just added a drive, and all of the share folders could use that space immediately, but not so with the current system. Add to that other nice benefits like only spinning the drives in use and perhaps you can see why we are really missing something now that it is gone.

      Yes, you can add drives to v2 but it is not the same, which is the whole point of this add-in and why it will likely help keep v2 from going tits-up.

  • Jeffek

    I would definitely consider this. Way to go! 😀

  • Trimble Epic

    Could this technology work outside of WHS? – On a windows 7 machine, for example?

    And is it going to use the same tombstone and pointers techniques that WHS has proven can work?

    I've been watching every day waiting for this announcement to pop up. I KNEW it was coming.

  • Once it's proven to work well and not bog down the system, I'd consider an upgrade. Until then, I'm sticking with my EX495.

  • Grumpy

    I am also looking forward to this app. Also had thoughts about it working with Windows 7, yummy… 🙂

  • Cubanblood

    Way to go!! If this works as intended then WHS2011 might be part of my home network.

  • Bodog (WGS)

    Sounds interesting – ticks all the boxes. Wonder if you could sell it to Microsoft and save them from a failed WHS 2011 product?

  • Cheezewiz

    If the add-in is available, and maybe even included by OEM's with their black boxes, then it is unlikely that v2 WILL fail. Remember, we who are so vocal here are but a drop in the ocean compared to the buyers of the OEM boxes. Those people will not care about all the vitreol but will just want their box to work. Now it looks as though it will, and maybe better than before.

    I can honestly say that there are times when I wish I could disable DE, but now there will be a choice to use it or not. I use RAID because I want to, not because I have to. It should be a choice with DE as well.

    • you can disable DE anytime. per disk, and per hour.

      i'm still not sure we're a drop compared to the oem boxes. did they really sell massively? i haven't seen any, but i've seen a lot of geeks going their own whs way (including getting an oem box). all of them did ONLY because of DE, and all of them complain by now.

      • Cheezewiz

        Well, we are. We, you and I, are the computer geek/nerd class, and most of our friends are the same. But as far as sales of OEM vs custom we are a tiny minority. HP has sold millions of their black boxes, and then add ASUS, Acer and all the rest. We who buy just the software or have technet are just a drop.

        Personally, only 3 of the friends and family I know that have WHS boxes are self-built. That makes us about 15% in and around my family. Several are "older", non-techie types who have no idea how anything works, and they just want it TO WORK, period. Your circle may be different but without the OEM's selling millions of these boxes it is not worth the effort for MS to continue.

  • Cheezewiz

    Wow, please pardon my spelling: vitriol.

  • let me know if you need beta testers!!

    • Jody Nesbitt

      count me in too

  • Scott

    As many others have stated, I too am excited, but will proceed cautiously. This is a huge step and date safety if very important.

  • Alistair

    I'd actually also be interested to see this in Win7 too. I am building my next server on Win7 so that it can also serve the HTPC role (which WHS cannot do) and this means the only other feature of WHS that I would need to replicate is backup.

  • urmaster

    Ok nice start to my weekend, some good news. Even though MS don't deserve my money for WHS 2011 I may bite if this software is reliable. I need a new set of hardware for my WHS and would like a better web portal and new 64bit base.

    Keep up the good work!

    • landrover

      If you think they don't deserve your money, try out the RC. It's very good, and either this solution or FlexRAID is going to make WHSv1 obsolete.

      • Talex

        If this works on W7, it will make both WHS v2 and v1 obsolete.

        • urmaster

          Not really, why would you want to use a Window Client machine £100 license and all just to sit there as a server. Also there are a lot of other features that I just would not trust to a Windows Client OS (web serving…).

      • urmaster

        I don't doubt the RC is great it's just that it's missing its primary feature and feels a little pointless. Like buying an xbox that doesn't play games without another addon. My principles are telling me not to give money to MS for that reason but I think my Win 2003 based box is getting a little too old.

  • Johnny

    This is great, developers getting on board. Check out http://www.drivebender.com

  • reneg

    I'll wait and see how it works out for you early adopters. Maybe a year or two down the road, we'll have a better indication about the stability and support for this product. I've got to ask myself where will this product/company will be in 3-5 years?

  • Talex

    Do this right and I would gladly fork over some decent cash for it, but it has to be super solid and provide good performance. Agree with those that a vendor will have to pick this up because they outsell home builders, but at the same time it is us home builders that recommend this type of product to friends and family so I think the 2 go hand in hand more than being a completely seperate scenario.

    I will bodly state again that I would gladly pay $150 to $200 for something like this working rock solid and fast, cheaper than a drobo and more expandable (why many went with WHS in the 1st place), and that's even taking into account WHS cost, it would still be cheaper than almost anything else out there.

    My biggest dilema would be if something like this would run on a W7 box, I would have to seriously consider skipping WHS v2 all together and running this along with Media Center on W7, perhaps running v1 or v2 as virtual to just get backups in….

    I hope this or another solution really solves the DE issue and we can all enjoy our servers worry free.

  • Talex

    On a side note I was really hoping one of the bigger companies like Perfect Dik or Diskkeeper would have looked into this or at least a solid open source plug in would have came open, not saying at all I do not mind someone doing this, just would have been nice coming from a situation like that.

  • WHS Grunt

    Mirroring and shadow copy is not a true alternative to RAID or DE so this guy or guys might hold the answer to the prayers of many WHS users – some of the people here needs to be reminded that not all enthusiast are IT professionals or coders. For example, I am a home network, AV/Hifi and digital entertainment enthusiast who thankfully rely and gladly pay for solutions like this that many of you here develop.
    In the discussion whether or not a big company would be more likely to be the solvers of problems like DE, I can say that working for one of the leading IT/telecom infrastructure and device manufacturers in the world with thousands of R&D personnel – I have many times experienced how smaller companies have solved problems, simply by approaching it slightly differently – This might be the case here as well.
    I hope this add-in will show itself to be stable and useful, but I also hope for other solution alternatives to show up as this would create a more dynamic eco-system.

    • Talex

      I understand a big company is not always the solution, but there are 2 that were in the home server market already and specialized in drive technology, that is why I did not mention just any company. I agree that smaller companies can sometimes solve problems larger ones cannot, this is a perfect example of that, MS Clearly has the resources to solve the DE issue, for business reasons they are choosing not to.

      Open source would have been great except it is hard to keep that pinned down to just releases that the public at large would understand, often with nightly builds etc which would just confuse 99 out of 100 normal eveyday joes.

      Agree that the more options there are the better unless there become so many that the market gets so split that none can make enough to justify supporting the product,

      I hope this or another solution proves to be what we all hoped DE in vail would be.

  • WHS Grunt

    I agree that open source do present its problems, but if this or the other recent suggestion "Drive Bender" go the Red Hat-way, i.e. develop and support a specific open source version – thus becoming a software and service provider for the 99 out of 100 that get confused, it would be a viable solution for most people.

    Of course too many options confuses, but the order of things will weed out the sour grapes.

    Go all you who engage in the WHS community, whether it is using, comment, develop or blog – the basic idea of the WHS is too good to wither away.

  • Phitar

    Sorry ,but I don't see the point of paying to "upgrade" to something that will break what I have now and then paying MORE to fix it again. To convince me I would have to know that it would be trouble free throughout the entire Home Server 2011 life cycle. (Service Pack 1 through ??)

  • Grem135

    I am a WHS 2011 tester that re-installed WHSv1 when they dropped DE from WHSv2. I will gladly Beta test this if given the opportunity. Wont take long to drop a 160 in for OS and a couple of other drives for the pool… but I just got WHSv1 completely configured again…. my family loves being able to stream music and upload files to it.

  • Geeba

    Same same… if it works – I'm in…. it would be only something like this that would make me move from v1 TBH

  • Ron

    If it works, I would reconsider my decision to stick with WHS v1 and look seriously at WHS 2011. Drive Extender is a great feature, and Microsoft is foolish for removing it in a product they call a "home server".

  • shadowvlican

    just posting to show my support

  • madric

    Not holding my breath. I'm inclined to agree with the "if MS can't do it…" responses – even given the lessons which have been learned from that generation of DE.

    If the Datacore stuff comes off, I would be more confident of that than file duplication. They have been providing software virtualisation of mismatched storage hardware for years, and in my experience it was always rock-solid, and for production mail and database servers, not just for mp3 collections.

  • GygaMan

    I been using it now for 2 days and have no problems; the only think I would like is just to be able to put in the folder pool the existing WHS shares. It just don’t make much sense to recreate the same folders with different name to be use for the same purpose as the existing one.

    Any thing else I’m happy and can’t wait it reach final version, for sure I will be the inline waiting for it.

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